German companies putting the wind back in our sails
They often say the simplest ideas are sometimes the best. In this case, they might well be true. Two German companies have together developed a high-tech kite system, called SkySails, which can be used to help pull ocean liners across the seas.
The use of wind when travelling by sea has been sidelined since the move to fossil fuels. In January 2008, "Beluga SkySails", a 132 meter long ship will travel across the Atlantic to Venezuela, Boston and then back to Europe. It won't be just any journey however, Beluga SkySails will be pulled by a giant computer assisted kite costing a mere €500,000.
In an interview with Reuters, Beluga chief executive Niels Stolberg said "This is the start of a revolution for the way ships are powered. It's a small but crucial step for the future."
Beluga SkySails will still require the usage of diesel engines, but the giant kite flying up to 300 metres high is expected to cut fuel consumption by up to 20% in good wind conditions. Not bad considering it is essentially a big kite, pulling along a 10,000 tonne ship.
SkySails inventor Stephan Wrage said in an interview "At the heart of this all for me, the real motivating factor is to get to the crossroads of ecology and economics - and to prove it pays to protect the environment. If our calculations are right, our clients will not only have considerably greater earnings but also substantially reduce their CO2 output as well."
Wrage is confident that his invention can make a difference and aims to equip 1,500 vessels by 2015. Plans for even bigger kites, approximately 600 square metres in size, are also in the pipeline.